Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. It will never be enough for some people. Despite winning their original protest to have the highly contested tuition hikes frozen, one of Quebec’s most vocal student groups, CLASSE, has now turned their efforts towards fighting for free post-secondary education. It may seem like a noble endeavour to some, but these protesters are acting like nothing more than whining, spoiled children.
Mention of the original tuition hike protests — affectionately referred to as The Maple Spring — conjures up a variety of images and emotions depending on who you speak to. Massive and sometimes violent protest demonstrations, a very noticeable police presence and a sea of red squares are perhaps the most memorable aspects of the protests. The protesters felt they were fighting for social justice and the fair access to education by protesting the relatively low tuition increases proposed by the Charest government that would still see Quebec students pay the lowest tuition in Canada. And whether or not you agree with their cause — they won. But despite the sacrifice and bloodshed over the hike, they’re still not happy.
Leader of The PQ party Pauline Marois made good on her election promise by freezing the hikes as one of her government’s first acts in office. And although some protesters were always clamoring for free tuition, this demand from CLASSE seems to have come out of nowhere. And in all honesty, it hurts their credibility as a student advocate group. Now that they got what they wanted, they shouldn’t just continue making demands. CLASSE needs to grow up and learn how to pick their battles.
CLASSE’s defense is that free tuition would create fair access to post secondary for everyone. The idea behind the demand is noble. In a way, everyone should have equality of opportunity for post secondary — which they do. Although you have to pay for it, if people are willing to work for it and perhaps acquire some student debt, post-secondary can be attainable for almost everyone. But despite that, university is not and should not be for everyone. That’s part of the allure of attending a post-secondary institution. It’s supposed to be competitive and unfortunately, not everyone can make it. Financial situations shouldn’t prohibit someone from attending, but there are countless scholarships and bursaries for those who work for them and seek them out.
The PQ government in Quebec has come up with the much more reasonable proposal of indexing tuition to CPI. But a spokesman for CLASSE Jeremie Bedard-Wein has stated that not only does CLASSE want free tuition, but tuition that is “free from corporate influence.” What an admirable thing to fight for. Tell those soulless corporations to get their hands off your university. But the question that keeps coming back to bite CLASSE is: how will this all be paid for? Other than giving an extremely vague explanation of better management of university funds, allocation of tax dollars and funding from “outside sources,” Bedard-Wein has failed to give a realistic, well-thought out proposal for free tuition in Quebec.
People don’t like to pay for things — we get it. But if you have free tuition, these students and the other taxpayers of Quebec will still be paying for it somehow — nothing is free. Bedard-Wein has used Scandinavian countries as examples of how free tuition could work in Quebec. But a quick search will show you that the personal income tax rate of a country like Sweden can be as high as 60 per cent. These countries do have a lot more social programs that contribute to the high income tax rate, but regardless: free tuition means more taxes. If you thought the demonstrations over the tuition hike were large and ferocious, just imagine how people might react when they’re told they’ll need to pay more for someone else’s education.
So if these protesters want free tuition, and they probably don’t want more taxes, the next option is donations from the private sector, maybe even corporate donations. But that’s off the table for CLASSE. No corporations can influence their education — whatever that means. How a corporation can influence an education remains to be seen other than vague scaremongering. Besides exclusive rights to sell their products on campus and maybe having their name on a university building, it’s a stretch to infer that corporations can somehow influence the education that students are receiving. Large monetary donations from private companies should be seen as a relief. Staunchly opposing outside financial aid will not help the university.
The tuition hikes that student protesters worked so hard to fight against with demonstrations, marches and even some violent altercations with the police have been scrapped. They got what they wanted. And although many of the Maple Spring protesters are happy with the results, CLASSE is still the largest and most vocal of the three student advocacy groups — unfortunately branding them as the face of student advocacy for the time being. If CLASSE wants to be taken seriously by the government, taxpayers and fellow students, they need to wake up and take their victory with grace.
The remnants of chivalry still linger today, especially in the dating world.